When it comes to books, I read everything I can get my hands on. However, one genre that I have loved dearly is fantasy. I like the genre a lot. I like not living in a normal world for a few hours. I like the magic and the new races and all the weird ways that the world can be transformed. It’s also what I like to write. But fantasy is one of those genres that has been largely white. It is getting better (especially in YA) where new authors are writing about non-white characters and tackling issues like racism and colorism within their stories.
Sometimes it’s done through options such as racism against half-elves or full elves or whatever other fantasy race you don’t want to like today. However, few and far between are the books that really tackle race and fantasy not as one in the same, but as separate issues that can exist within the same company.
Juniper Leaves: The Otherworldly Tale of a Lonesome Magical Girl by Jaz Joyner tackles a lot of those issues and more. Not only is our protagonist black, but she’s not all that straight either. And that split focus for those issues (saving the world, being who she is, liking who she likes) is part of what I liked about this story. There were interesting concepts, the characters were interesting, and the world had real potential.
But the book fell flat for me. It’s not on some level that I felt like it was just a terrible story. The plot was great if lacking a little bit of depth at times. The world was interesting, but not as fully developed. The characters had some depth, but some choices felt shoved in. There were some forced moments.
To add on top of that, my editor brain was a little bit on the ball while I was reading this book, even though it took a while. There are some minor errors throughout the book that pestered me while I was reading it.
However, if you take all the errors that I saw and all of the good that I saw. There is a lot there that is still good. Even if it wasn’t the best read, I flew through it when I sat down to read it. That kind of engagement is hard for me at times. Even with the parts of the story that didn’t make as much sense, I was able to push through and suspend my sense of disbelief just long enough to get through to the breakthrough.
If I was to score this book out of 5 stars. I would give it a 3.5.
The issues that I experienced with the details of the story and the writing are a definite drawback, but there was a lot of good as well. It was better than an average book because it tackled some very unaverage issues for books in the fantasy genre.
At the end of the day, I’m excited that Juniper Leaves was written. I’m excited that the author is not the kind of person that you traditionally see writing books in this genre. I’m excited that there are more and more books that are about people that don’t normally see themselves written about. There is a lot to be excited about when books like Juniper Leaves start seeing the limelight for just a little bit. At the end of the day, my problems lie in the fact that it just isn’t my book. It isn’t a favorite forever and ever. There are many books that I love for how well written they are. There are many books that I will appreciate because of how they have affected me. This book is exciting because of what it means for the genre, not what it did for me. And that’s okay.
If you’re looking for something a little unusual, then go ahead and pick this one up. It isn’t going to be the most beautiful book that you will read, but it will be a great experience at the end of the day.